2013-01-11 / Neighbors
Calling all Young Eagles
Program receives $50,000 grant
Crystal DeMate, who works at Camarillo’s Sun Air Jets, brought her 8-year-old daughter, Serenity Olmos, to encourage the girl’s budding interest in airplanes.
“She’s never flown,” DeMate said. “She’s actually just gone up the ramp and gone on planes, but she’s never flown before. At work she’s always asking, ‘Mommy, Mommy, when can I go up?’”
Serenity’s first flight was made possible by the Young Eagles program, hosted the first Saturday of every month by members of the Camarillo chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.
EAA, based in Wisconsin, is a nationwide organization that promotes the construction and appreciation of aircraft. The Young Eagles program was formed by the association in 1992 to expose young people—especially those who have never flown before—to the world of aeronautics.
EAA members volunteer their time and fuel costs to take about 500 youths per year on half-hour flights. While airborne, pilots share technical knowledge and stories about piloting small aircraft.
Alfredo Romero, a 15-yearold from Westlake Village, said he wanted to learn about flying through experience because he is considering joining the Marines.
“I want to learn how everything works and everything works together—how the atmosphere works with the electronics and the engine to fly,” he said.
Alfredo’s pilot for the day was chapter volunteer David Lunn, who’s been involved with EAA for five years.
“I’ve always been passionate about aviation, and if my grandfather didn’t take me flying when I was 8 years old I never would have been interested in aviation,” said Lunn. “It’s really about giving back because it gives kids an opportunity to ignite a passion in their life that they wouldn’t otherwise have an opportunity to do.”
The Young Eagles program recently received a donation of $50,000 from the Hutchinson Foundation to encourage the “aviation bug” in local youths, said the foundation’s director, Geoffrey Strand.
“What we are doing is providing an opportunity for the next generation to come down to the airport and get excited about general aviation,” said Strand. “What the Young Eagles do is to try to get kids who are already interested in flying to get exposed to flying and sort of catch the disease.”
The Hutchinson Foundation was formed by Strand after the death of Harold Hutchinson in 2009. Hutchinson was the cofounder of the Harwil Corporation, an Oxnard manufacturer,
He was also an EAA chapter member, engineer, World War II veteran, pilot and experimental plane builder. He and his wife, Anna, had a lifelong passion for flight, Strand said.
EAA President Tom Ridderbush said the funds will be used in part to purchase a flight simulator, which will allow volunteers to help Young Eagle participants log flight hours while awaiting their turn to fly with a volunteer.
“Sometimes we’ll have 40 to 50 kids out there and only 10 planes, so they don’t have anything to do while they are sitting there waiting,” Ridderbush said. “These kids can come in and sit down with an instructor and actually get a log book and log time that they’ve had flight instruction. That’s something we’d be able to use for many years over and over again.”
Ridderbush said the Young Eagles program was founded in part to preserve the legacy of its aging chapter members.
“One of the problems with our chapter is the age group,” he said. “We have a lot of people who are getting old, and we really want to get the younger people involved.”
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, there are roughly 617,000 registered pilots in the United States. Ridderbush hopes the Young Eagles will help increase that number.
“What we intend to do with the Young Eagles is get these kids to become pilots, air traffic controllers and airplane mechanics,” Ridderbush said. “By coming to our chapter, we can help guide them in the direction they may want to go.”
Edited Jan. 14, 2013.